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“For Ahmaud Arbery, an Unarmed Black Jogger Killed for Allegedly Looking in the Window of a House Under Construction”

by Michael Meyerhofer

 

I was twenty-two, white, in love
that day I wasn’t shot for trespassing.

It happened nearly two decades ago.
We started out in the backseat

of her parents’ oxblood Subaru,
heading back from the country club

with bellies full of prime rib
and vegetables I could not name.

Then her father touched the brake,
pointed to a mansion being built

beyond a phalanx of dogwoods,
timbers stacked like wine-washed

bones on a generous plot of Iowa soil.
The crews had already gone home,

just some golden tape left behind.
So we pulled over, got out, explored—

her father darkly pinstriped, her mother
sporting a heavy rosary of pearls.

Before long, neighbors spotted us
and waved, smiling from their houses.

Unfazed, my girlfriend and I
slipped away and touched primally

in what might have been a stranger’s
future bedroom, its walls unmade.

After a great while, we reunited
beside half a staircase. Her parents

forgave our absence with a shrug
and the suggestion of frozen yogurt.

On the way back, I could smell her
on my fingers, which made her blush.

Meanwhile, her parents shared
daydreams of their own mansion

with taller floors and windows,
thicker drapes to block the sunset.

—from Poets Respond
May 9, 2020

Michael Meyerhofer: “When I read about Ahmaud Arbery,murdered for supposedly looking in the window of a house still under construction, I immediately flashed back to a time when I’d done something similar (though actually a lot more obtrusive) without suffering any consequences whatsoever. There were four of us that day: my girlfriend and me, plus her parents. However, because all of us were white, and her parents also happened to be wealthy (as evidenced by their clean new car and formal attire), no one in the neighborhood batted an eyelash. To be honest, I might never even have given that incident a second thought if I hadn’t read about the circumstances behind Arbery’s murder. Given my own impoverished childhood, I admit that I sometimes chafe at the notion that I’ve benefited from white privilege. That’s the biggest hallmark of white privilege, though: those who benefit from it rarely even know it’s there, until something happens that makes the double standard impossible to deny.”


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